Energy prices too high in Europe says Commission representative

» By | Published 27 Sep 2011

Energy prices in Europe are too high because the market for electricity is not yet functioning on an EU level, Michael Köhler, Head of Cabinet for Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for energy, said at a public debate hosted by EWEA.

But to secure a functioning EU single market for electricity, the continent needs a Europe-wide electricity grid, he said on Thursday 22 September.

With a European grid in place, and a functioning single market, Europe could look forward to security of supply, competitiveness in electricity markets and declining energy prices, Köhler said.

“We need a European master plan, a change in the electricity paradigm, and energy motorways just like there are now for cars on European roads,” he said at the debate held in the Press Club Brussels Europe.

A European grid would see more and more renewable energies come online. Köhler predicted a “massive increase in renewables,” but cautioned that a European grid is a “prerequisite for phasing in renewables on a massive scale.”

José Carlos Fernandez, Senior Expert in Policy and Regulation at Red Eléctrica de España, pointed out that ENTSO-E, the European Network for Transmission System Operators for Electricity, already has a robust ten-year network development plan.

Eddie O’Conner, CEO of Mainstream Renewable Power, noted that a shift in spending – from spending on fossil fuels to spending on energy infrastructure – must take place. Once we have invested in a European grid that fully connects renewables, the fuel costs are free, he said.

“We must adjust to the new reality of free fuels,” O’Conner stated.

Köher added that European energy infrastructure suffers from over-regulation, isolated national markets and costly investments. José Braz, from Energy Services Regulatory Authority, Portugal, echoed this sentiment saying that licensing delays and permitting problems are big issues.

Köhler noted that many planning issues are cross-border highlighting the need for “cross-border facilitators”. Today planning new infrastructure often involves seeking approval from many different authorities, but this should be reduced to a ‘one-stop shop’, he said.

Europe needs a single internal power market and a network infrastructure to facilitate it. Read a statement launched last week supported by 15 different organisations.